World-class powerlifter Brianna Hannigan ’25 fits in her training regimen around classes in adventure education and environmental science. Sometimes her worlds collide, such as when she felt worn out by her spring semester Paddling course.
“We were out on the water so my arms would be dead,” says Hannigan, but it clearly didn’t diminish her potential. After competing in the New Hampshire State Championships in April, she currently holds 16 state lifting records and is within the top ten in the world for her age (19) and weight class (under 105 pounds). She also holds records in the open classification in which all ages can compete. “I do it because it’s fun,” she says.
Hannigan’s personal lifting bests are 231.5 pounds in the squat, 115.7 pounds in the bench press, and 341.7 pounds in the deadlift, which requires shoulders back and arms completely flexed downward. She competes without special equipment in the “raw” category and her complete list of records can be viewed on the USA Powerlifting database.
An interdisciplinary studies major, Hannigan is a mentee with a local guiding service that partners with the University’s adventure ed program. In addition, she’s been working with a few graduate students and wants to create a new Plymouth State University powerlifting club.
“Bri is one of the nicest and hardest working students I have ever had,” says Professor of Adventure Education Jamie Hannon, who also coordinates graduate programs in adventure learning. “She clearly has a focus on excellence in her academics and is always very conscientious about doing her best job.”
As Hannigan’s Paddling instructor, Hannon saw her inner strength and determination come to the fore. “At first, she was nervous, but by the end of the course, she was a masterful paddler. Even more impressive, at the end of the semester she and her classmate Molly Stirk ’24 entered the local canoe race, the Asquamchumaukee Regatta. They won the college and women’s divisions and were the second fastest canoe of the entire day. “That’s really quite an athletic achievement for novice paddlers,” says Hannon.
Hannigan’s accomplishments are even more remarkable given the disordered eating that once plagued her. “I was very sickly,” she admits. “I had my own idea that lifting might be helpful and approached my high school football coach about joining the team’s off-season lifting club. High school students are brutal and it was disheartening sometimes. I was really convinced that if I started lifting it could make something positive out of the recovery process, and I think it worked out for me.”
To say that it “worked out” is a considerable understatement, as Hannigan is qualified for the powerlifting nationals in 2023. “I will probably be competing at the Junior Nationals, but could also compete at the open level,” she says. “I’d really like to turn pro. You can be sponsored by equipment manufacturers and win cash prizes at some competitions, but I just kind of take it day by day.”